“Toc, toc, toc.” Wiping my hands on my apron, I went to the door wondering who would visit so close to lunch. “Buon giorno,” I greeted the unexpected visitor hesitantly. “Can I help you?” not really knowing what to say or do. I’d never been visited by a priest before!
“Well, I’m here for the house blessing,” he informed me. “The blessing?” I asked stupidly. (Surely looking as dumb as I felt.) It was my first Italian Easter, and I had no notion of the Easter house blessing.
“But, my house is already blessed!” I informed him. “Already blessed?” he marveled. “Why yes, I’m God’s child and his blessing is always on my house!” Silence, as we stared at one another dumbfounded. Then, “Um, you’re not Catholic, are you?”
But he was gracious and polite, even offering to come in and pray over our house anyway. I asked if he would come back sometime when my husband was home, but he never returned. And we’ve never again had a priest come to our door, probably because we’re not Catholic. But we would have welcomed a chance to talk with him.
The house blessing is an important part of Easter here.
Because Roman Catholics believe that for their house to be blessed the priest must sprinkle it with holy water. But I’m grateful I don’t have to depend on that! Priest or no priest, my house is always blessed!
Good Friday and Easter week processions also take a prominent place.
These elaborate and solemn affairs often include parishioners garbed in traditional local costumes carrying candles and statues of Mary or Christ through the street. And still others make a point of traveling to Rome for the Pope’s Easter sermon and annual blessing. So popular is this event that it’s recommended you order tickets at least 2-6 months in advance!
The house blessing and street processions were unexpected, but for the most part I found Easter much like the American holiday.
- People go to church.
- The day is spent with family or friends, because unlike Christmas, you can spend Easter with whomever you wish. As the saying goes, “Natale con i tuoi, a Pasqua con chi voi.” (Christmas with family, Easter with whomever you want.)
- It always includes a big dinner, often with lamb. And of course pasta. Lots of pasta. But then, when isn’t pasta part of the day here?
- And kids decorate hard-boiled eggs.
Easter egg coloring goes back a long way.
In ancient Rome they believed all life comes from the egg and so gifted them during their spring festivals. After first boiling and dipping them in homemade dyes made of foods like red onion skins, beets, and carrots. But in Christian tradition Easter eggs were originally dyed red, in memory of Christ’s blood. And later came to symbolize both Christ’s resurrection and new life, and eaten in celebration of this.
But you won’t find the eggs in egg hunts or baskets stuffed with goodies. They usually grace the table in a place of honor and supply part of the meal, or are reserved for the evening meal. And if notice, there aren’t any chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Peeps, or jelly beans in this basket. They’re not a part of Easter here.
But the special chocolate eggs and Colomba cakes more than make up for it!
Italy is known for these beautiful, often elaborately decorated and exquisitely wrapped eggs. Some of which are downright huge, up to 6.5 feet tall (almost 2 meters) and weighing in at 550 lbs (250 kg)!
The larger hollow eggs contain prizes, and it’s hard to say whether kids like the prize or the chocolate most! But choose carefully. Boy’s eggs have cars or sports related items. While a girl’s might contain Peppa Pig or Hello Kitty.
We even have Easter eggs for adults too, holding things like ties or costume jewelry. But if you’d like something more special, the artisan chocolate makers will concoct one with your own personalized gift inside. Some have even contained elaborate gifts like fine jewelry or tickets to exotic places!
Plus, most restaurants and coffee bars raffle off giant eggs! Buy a ticket, and if you’re the lucky winner you can eat chocolate to your heart’s content!
Or if that’s not to your liking, try some Colomba cake, a dove-shaped panettone cake. Just like the Christmas panettone, but the Colomba is sold only at Easter time. And remember if you go visiting, it’s traditional to never go empty-handed. Take a Colomba (dove) cake along!
But it doesn’t end here, because Pasquetta is coming too!
The Easter holiday typically starts with Good Friday, continuing through Pasquetta, meaning “little Easter.” This day following Easter is also known as Easter Monday and typically a picnic or barbecue day, weather permitting. Although some cities also hold festivals including dances, concerts, or games. With food of course, and some good local wine! And as almost everyone gets this day off work it’s a great favorite!
Any more the chocolate eggs take center stage at Easter. But not for me. I prefer the pasta, lamb, and wine! And the tiramisù, and coffee, and… But mostly I’m just thankful that, because of Easter, our house is already blessed!